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Sign language could become the 12th language

27 July 2017 - 14:03 By Nomahlubi Jordaan
There are currently an estimated 600 000 hearing-impaired people in South Africa. File photo.
There are currently an estimated 600 000 hearing-impaired people in South Africa. File photo.
Image: iStock

Sign Language could soon become the 12th official language as the Constitutional Review Committee of Parliament has recommended that it be given official status.

“The committee is recommending that section 6 (1) and (5) (a) be amended to include SASL [South African Sign Language] as an official language. The committee accepted the fact that‚ the issue of addressing the proposal for declaring SASL as an official language was long overdue. It is expected that the necessary formalities should be made by Parliament to ensure the amendment of the Constitution to accommodate this‚” the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) said on Thursday.

PanSALB said the move by the Constitutional Review Committee was not only positive for deaf communities but also for the entire country‚ particularly for those who wish to study sign language. “PanSALB is of the view that SASL like any other official language is a fundamental human right that should be treated equally. We have made several crucial calls to government to prioritise sign language like any other formal language and efforts have for a very long time drawn a blank.

“This was done on the basis that we believe it has been violated and marginalised as compared to other languages‚” said PanSALB’s chief executive‚ Dr Rakwena Monareng. The language board believes teaching SASL from school level will also regulate and limit challenges of incorrect sign language interpreters. “As it is enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa‚ we believe all languages are equal and that it should all be given the recognition‚ respect and publicity it deserves” added Dr Monareng. According to PanSALB‚ the recommendation came at “the right time” as the country will be commemorating the Deaf Awareness Month in September. “PanSALB is looking forward to working with the department of education to ensure that the provision of SASL becomes a success and contributes immensely to all needy citizens and respects those living with a deaf incapacity in the country‚” the board said.

- TimesLIVE